Nice to meet you. I’m Alasdair Beckett-King, England’s most Scottish-looking man. I am a stand-up comedian, YouTuber, children’s author, hedge-wizard, catburglar and lifecoach.
I’ve been doing stand-up for more than ten years: delivering offbeat observations and hard-hitting whimsy across the UK and beyond. It’s been a decade of paying my dues, plugging away and casting pearls before swine. (In retrospect, I should have tried jokes.)
There have been ups and downs. And downs. And some things that looked like ups but turned out to be downs. Weirdly, my fortunes changed during lockdown. When so many people were stuck at home in front of a screen, I got lucky. I uploaded a little sketch to the internet, and it went viral. (The good kind of viral.)
Finding an appreciative audience for my brand of nonsense made a huge difference to me. Now I have a handful of TV appearances under my (vegan leather) belt and I’m in the middle of my first ever solo tour. It’s going rather well, so I’m grateful to Square Mile for this opportunity to remember some of the absolute shockers along the way…
A Comedy Vacuum
I’m always on the lookout for a wealthy benefactor, so I expected my first gig for properly rich people to go well. I was wrong. I found myself floundering, in front of an audience of influencers, business magnates and miscellaneous villains. They had me pegged as a Marxist the moment I stepped on stage. I think it’s the hair.
Comedy is weird, because it’s the only job where doing it badly definitely isn’t funny.
In desperation, I launched into a reliable old routine about vacuum cleaners. It got nothing. Not a titter. Nary a smile. I stopped in the middle of a hoovering act-out and asked them, “You lot don’t clean your own houses, do you?”
Then they laughed.
When You Joke Into The Void
I was lucky enough to appear on the final series of Mock the Week, before the BBC cancelled it (because I was too funny, I believe).
The first time I did the show, social distancing was still in force. It was strange. There was a bullet-proof plexiglass screen separating me from Hugh Dennis, as if he were the pope. The audience was not allowed in the studio. They were stuck at home on Zoom, and the sound of their laughter crackled into the room with an unsettling delay. It was extremely nerve racking. I had never told jokes on TV before.
Fortunately, I had plenty of experience performing to empty rooms.
And Empty Tents…
Did you see Dolly Parton play on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2014? I didn’t, because I was on stage in Glastonbury’s Cabaret Tent at that exact moment.
I would describe my performance as ‘legendary’, inasmuch as no one actually saw it. The entirety of the festival turned out to see Dolly, while I told jokes to three people (let’s call them ‘substance enthusiasts’) in a 1,000-capacity dome.
I’m not bitter about it. Who wouldn’t want to see the Queen of Nashville gigging in a Somerset dairy farm? But the sound-proofing in those tents is not great. It’s tough to keep smiling when you’re performing to an empty auditorium, and you can distantly hear Dolly Parton singing, “What a way to make a living.”
Finding Your Voice Is Hard Enough
In 2019, I lost my voice, like the little mermaid with a beard. I lost my voice completely, four hours after my final show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. One week later, I was due to perform the same show at the Lund Comedy Festival in Sweden.
I didn’t speak for a week. I rested. I drank soothing concoctions. I travelled to Sweden like a monk who had taken a vow of silence… and my voice returned, just in time. I was croaky, but Swedish audiences are terrifically warm. They applaud at the end of every routine, like you would at the end of a song. It was a delight.
The show had a routine about Film Noir. Since I was in Sweden, I added a little riff parodying Scandi Noir dramas. It was a one-off thing. Two years later, I turned it into a video and put it on Twitter.
Things went nuts.
Every so often, someone in the street will yell “Gunnar Gunnarsson!” at me. This is because I made a video that went viral in 2021. It was a 40-second long parody of nordic crime dramas.
Someone swiped the video and put it on Reddit, where it hit the front page. That may mean nothing to you, and it meant nothing to me either. That is, until the folk on Reddit found my YouTube channel. I went from having about 600 subscribers to having 40,000 in a week.
To this day, I have no idea why people found that video so enjoyable. I don’t know if it was my norse cheekbones or my generic Scandi accent. I do know that there are people coming to see me on tour now who discovered me through Gunnar Gunnarsson.
So, thank you Gunnar. And thank you to whoever it was who stole my video and stuck it on Reddit. But, maybe, credit the person who made the video next time, eh?
Alasdair Beckett-King performs in The Interdimensional ABK at Leicester Square Theatre on 17-18 June 2023. leicestersquaretheatre.com